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What squat is best [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jun 16, 2017 10:00:00 AM

What squat is best

There are many variations of the squat and you might wonder which one is the best. All in all, it seems like the more professional the strength coach seems to get for athletics the more the front squat is preferred based on what I read. The more pure strength comes into focus the more likely it becomes that the low bar back squat is the weapon of choice. Whatever your goal is, here are some variations of the squat for you to pick from.

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Front squat

The front squat is like the fitness equivalent of that awful concoction your grandmother wanted to give you for breakfast whenever you came over. It lives together with the burpee, the marathon, sledge push and double unders in the “things I’d rather avoid when going to the gym” drawer. Mostly this is due to poor hip and ankle mobility and the fact that it hurts your throat and fingers if done correctly. And yet this torturous ordeal out of the underworld of lifting is one of the best tools around to become more explosive on the squat in general and work on your mobility for these very reasons. If you have not done front squats for a year, which is likely, maybe run a cycle of your favourite lifting program using this underutilised gem instead of the back squat.

Back squat

The back squat comes in two variations the high bar squat and the low bar squat (even though the difference is only an inch or so on your back). When it comes to building strength like a rhino in your legs there is almost no other exercise which gives you as much bang for your buck as the back squat. It is no coincidence that this is the first lift to be taught in Greg Everett’s Olympic weightlifting book, which is considered one of the must reads amongst strength coaches. There is a multitude of variations and generally the wider your stance the more weight you can lift at the price of less velocity. The back squat is a commanding force in the free weight room which anyone serious about building strength and muscle should do.

Hack squat

The hack squat is a compromise for those who cannot load the barbell onto their shoulders and still want to get the benefits of the squat for their legs. It is also a useful tool to bring up the volume when your shoulders are bruised and battered or for variations to hit your muscles from different angles. It is one of the exercises which you see more seldom done. Therefore, use it when you plateau and nothing else has worked.  

Safety bar squat

The safety bar squat is a solid companion for seasoned powerlifters and beginners who want to focus fully on the explosiveness on the squat without having to worry too much about balancing the weight on their back or at the front (surprise, you can also do front squats with a safety bar with a little bit of practice). Combine the safety bat with box squats for a gem of an exercise to build explosiveness out of the hole.

Goblet squat

The goblet squat is like the skipped intro or tutorial of a computer game. You truck along and level up on your journey but somehow you cannot figure out some parts of the story or wonder why you die so quick. Going back over the tutorial after a bit of frustration makes you realise that you missed out on the basic moves for parrying and evading. Same with the goblet squat. A lot of people skip this exercise before starting with a barbell missing out on the possibility of working on their mobility and movement pattern with less load.  

Air squat

The air squat goes everywhere with you because it uses the element which you can find everywhere, air. A proper air squat which does not look like you are bowing to the sun and moves your ass to the ground while keeping your heels flat to the same is a great foundation for any athlete to build upon. Unfortunately, many people do not spend enough time to perfect the air squat before moving on to the next progression) me included, so learn from my mistakes).

Box squat

Many strength coaches like Jim Wendler and Luis Fitzsimmons are fans of the box squat. Even more are not. The box squat is the shunned underdog in strength training which seems to be only appreciated by the hard ass bulldogs of men like rugby players and powerlifters. The trick is to stay in control and not crash like a sack of potatoes onto the box including the barbell. That is bad for your spine. If done correctly the box squat is a great tool to work on specific weaknesses in the squat by focusing on that part of the motion.


There is not the best squat variation without any context. You must study the variations, know your own body and with help of a professional try and test the version of the squat which benefits you most to reach your goals. The trick is to keep an open mind and keep experimenting rather than getting to a routine and grind which limits you in your progress.

Further reading

Topics: Lift stronger, Squat